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We recently visited the 18th International Architecture Biennale titled "The Laboratory of the Future" open from Saturday 20 May to Sunday 26 November (pre-opening 18 and 19 May), curated by academic, educator and best-selling novelist Lesley Lokko, who has commented: “Architects have a unique opportunity to put forward ambitious and creative ideas that help us imagine a more equitable and optimistic future in common”.

The Laboratory of the Future is an exhibition in six parts. It includes 89 Participants, over half of whom are from Africa or the African Diaspora. Across all the parts of The Laboratory of the Future, over 70% of exhibits are by practices run by an individual or a very small team. (…)”

“Central to all the projects is the primacy and potency of one tool: the imagination - Lokko said. It is impossible to build a better world if one cannot first imagine it.

The Laboratory of the Future begins in the Central Pavilion in the Giardini, where 16 practices who represent a distilled force majeure of African and Diasporic architectural production have been gathered.

Hanging from the ceiling of the largest room in the Central pavilion is an enmeshed map containing fragments of every participant in the "Laboratory of the Future" , bringing together the occupants of the Central Pavilion, Corderie, Artiglierie, Gaggiandre, and Forte Marghera.

In the main pavilion in the Giardini, one encounters the "Force Majeure" invited by Lokko, these are 16 architectural positions from the African and diasporic context. The contributions come, among others, from the Pritzker Prize winner Diébédo Francis Kéré, born in Burkina Faso, the Nigerien architect Mariam Issoufou Kamara (atelier masōmī) and the architects Sumayya Vally and Moad Musbahi, practicing in South Africa.

To explore the idea of an expanding definition of architecture further, in the next section, Dangerous Liaisons, which unfolds in the Arsenale complex, the 37 practitioners chosen all work in hybrid ways, across disciplinary boundaries, across geographies, and across new forms of partnership and collaboration.

There are single practitioners; medium-sized architectural firms as well as two- or three-person firms who combine teaching and practice equally. There are larger practices that focus on decarbonisation in novel ways , as well as experimental practices whose work seeks to expand our understanding of what it means to decolonise knowledge and production. Work from every continent is represented here and from disciplines such as film, investigative journalism, adaptive reuse, land reclamation, grass roots community-based practice.

For the first time ever in the Biennale Architettura, the Curator’s Special Projects and Special Participants are a large category, out of competition. They are designated ‘special’ because of the close relationship with the Curator and her Curator's Assistants, working together to produce work in specific categories chosen by the Curator to complement the Exhibition. Three of these categories, Mnemonic; Food, Agriculture and Climate Change; and Geography and Gender look specifically at the complex relationship between memory and architecture (Adjaye Associates with Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, Craig McClenaghan Architecture, Looty, and Studio & and Höweler + Yoon); between climate change, land practices and food production (Margarida Waco, Gloria Pavita, BothAnd Group) and between gender, architecture and performance (Ines Weizman, J. Yolande Daniels, Gugulethu Sibonelelo Mthembu, Caroline Wanjiku Kihato, Clare Loveday and Mareli Stolp).

At this year's Venice Architecture Biennale, visitors can marvel at the Kwaee Pavilion, designed by Ghanaian-Scottish architect David Adjaye, among others. The latter created a pointed structure made of blackened wood, conceived as a place for reflection, gathering and meeting, and located on the former Venice shipyard site. The triangular pavilion is pierced by three openings - including an asymmetrical arch on the main façade that allows visitors:inside to enter the cave-like structure. The lamellar structure of Kwaee also consists of wooden slats of different lengths and arrangements, which form perforations and filter the light. This creates an inviting atmosphere inside as well as an impressive play of light and shadow.

To be continued.........


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